Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practical) MA

London, Stratford (UCL East)

This unique MA programme is based within a university but run by leading film practitioners, ensuring that you receive the highest-quality practice-based learning. You have your own camera equipment throughout and we provide editing facilities. Students are taught in small studios –  either ‘Ethnographic and Documentary Film’ Studios, or in one ‘Documentary Fiction’ Studio which explores the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction, bringing elements of performance into documentary filmmaking.

UK students International students
Study mode
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
1 calendar year
2 calendar years
Programme starts
September 2024
Applications accepted
Applicants who require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 28 Jun 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Applicants who do not require a visa: 16 Oct 2023 – 30 Aug 2024
Applications close at 5pm UK time

Applications open

Entry requirements

Normally a minimum of a lower second-class Bachelor's degree in a social science, arts, humanities or science discipline from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Academically weaker applications will also be considered provided that they are supported by experience in visual arts or film making.

Applicants with prior technical knowledge of film making are asked to send a video portfolio of up to 20 minutes duration (use of a Vimeo link is recommended). Applicants without a video portfolio are asked to complete a photo essay. Please see our guidelines on how to make a visual essay.

How to submit your portfolio

Submit your portfolio/ photo essay by including a link to an external site of your choice in the application (e.g. in the personal statement).

The English language level for this programme is: Level 4

UCL Pre-Master's and Pre-sessional English courses are for international students who are aiming to study for a postgraduate degree at UCL. The courses will develop your academic English and academic skills required to succeed at postgraduate level.

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

Equivalent qualifications

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below. Please note that the equivalency will correspond to the broad UK degree classification stated on this page (e.g. upper second-class). Where a specific overall percentage is required in the UK qualification, the international equivalency will be higher than that stated below. Please contact Graduate Admissions should you require further advice.

About this degree

Students learn to tell stories in various documentary film modes; master the technical ‘craft’ skills needed to produce different kinds of documentary films of different lengths for varied audiences; critically view and review film material; draw on anthropological and social science approaches to documentary; think critically about the relationship between form and content in documentary film practice.

Who this course is for

We are looking for students who want to challenge the documentary form and find innovative ways to tell important stories that resonate with global audiences. This degree is well-suited to students who have little or no experience in making films but also provides the opportunity for those with experience to deepen, broaden and diversify the range of their work.

What this course will give you

This MA will allow you to benefit from UCL's unique position in London, at the centre of the UK creative industries. The programme uses professional film-makers to teach within a truly pan-disciplinary university research environment.

UCL houses London's global non-fiction film festival, Open City Documentary Festival. You will gain access to this festival, providing a unique opportunity to engage with the global creative non-fiction industry.

Students have access to UCL's camera and editing equipment. Each student has their own full camera kit which they keep throughout the year - avoiding the need to check equipment in and out as well as access to editing suites. Students also have access to the extensive film collections in UCL Libraries and the team of creative artists who work in and around the Centre for Public Anthropology.

This programme is based at our brand new UCL East campus in East London, forming part of the School for Creative and Cultural Industries. Students will benefit from cultural and educational connections with our East Bank partners such as the V&A and BBC, as well as state-of-the-art facilities including exhibition, performance and curating spaces, conservation studios and a 160-seater surround-sound cinema.

The foundation of your career

Graduates of the Ethnographic and Documentary MA are likely to find work in a number of fields. Some work as independent film makers. Others find opportunities elsewhere - in organisations such as independent production companies, the BBC, the Ipsos Mori film unit, film units of NGOs. A number of graduates go on to specialise in editing, camerawork or producing. The increasing demand for trained moving image specialists in the years ahead will continue, if not accelerate.


The programme equips students for careers in:

  • mass media including cinematic, broadcast and web-based moving image
  • film and TV industry as camera operators, producers, directors, editors, researchers
  • academia – ethnographic research, visual media and culture
  • marketing and research
  • communication and other media
  • archives, as well as cultural heritage organisations
  • NGOs


Throughout the year there will be weekly masterclasses in which invited guests from the world of non-fiction film come in to discuss their work and meet students. A number of these events will be specifically careers orientated, culminating in a Careers Day in the 3rd Term. Students are also invited to participate in the annual Open City Documentary Film Festival (taking place at Easter), organised within the Anthropology department and taking place in venues across London. This is a chance to network with many people involved at the cutting edge of non-fiction filmmaking.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of seminars, practical exercises, tutorials and masterclasses.

The programme is assessed by practical film exercises and written work.

In the first term students have approximately 180 contact hours and in the second, 120. Over the summer they have up to 65 contact hours with mentors, editing tutors and in supervised (rough and fine cut) screenings and tutorials of work in their studios.


Across the first and second terms all students will undertake the Documentary and Ethnographic Film Practice compulsory module, during which you will make two examinable short films and write accompanying Critical Evaluations. The films will each be between 7-10 minutes in duration. You will also regularly complete short film exercises in preparation for these two films. You will also take two optional taught postgraduate modules, normally within the Anthropology department. From April, under the guidance of a mentor who will be an established industry professional, you will work on your Graduation Film which  forms the centrepiece of the portfolio of films that you will make during the MA and will be between 18-30 minutes in length.

As a part-time student you will complete your degree after two years. In the first year, you undertake the compulsory practical filmmaking module with two examinable short films and accompanying Critical Evaluations. You have the freedom to decide when you take two optional modules, normally within the Anthropology department; you may, for instance, chose to take them both in the second year, or one in each year. From April of your second year, under the guidance of a mentor who will be an established industry professional, you will work on your graduation film – normally between 18-30 minutes in length.

Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability are subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits. Upon successful completion of 180 credits, you will be awarded an MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practical).


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time Part-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £19,300 £9,650
Tuition fees (2024/25) £34,400 £17,200

The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Where the programme is offered on a flexible/modular basis, fees are charged pro-rata to the appropriate full-time Master's fee taken in an academic session. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Students website:

Additional costs

All full-time students are required to pay a fee deposit of £2,000 for this programme. All part-time students are required to pay a fee deposit of £1,000.

You will need to have two external Hard Drives capable of securely storing your film material. UCL provides one of these, but you will need to buy a second - this is essential in order to avoid loss of irretrievable film material if you have a Hard Drive failure. 

UCL runs Adobe Creative Cloud on the edit computers and students are expected to complete their coursework on campus, so there is no need for a personal licence.

In addition, as the programme is based at the UCL East campus in Stratford, students will need to fund their own travel between the Bloomsbury and UCL East campuses if they choose to take an optional module available only at Bloomsbury.

For more information on additional costs for prospective students please go to our estimated cost of essential expenditure at Accommodation and living costs.

Funding your studies

UCL East Scholarship

The scholarship works to support the ambitions of east Londoners by funding the fees and living costs of eligible Master's programmes including this MA at UCL. Further details at:

For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.

Aziz Foundation Scholarships in Social and Historical Sciences

Value: Full tuition fees (equivalent to 1yr full-time) (1yr)
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

UCL East London Scholarship

Deadline: 20 June 2024
Value: Tuition fees plus £15,700 stipend ()
Criteria Based on financial need
Eligibility: UK

Next steps

Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

There is an application processing fee for this programme of £90 for online applications and £115 for paper applications. Further information can be found at Application fees.

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practical) at graduate level
  • why you want to study Ethnographic and Documentary Film (Practical) at UCL
  • how your personal, academic and professional background meets the demands of a challenging programme that will focus on developing your creative use of the moving image in documentary filmmaking
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver. If you have a portfolio of work please provide a link to it within your personal statement or CV.

Please also indicate in your personal statement which of the two studios you are interested in being considered for (Ethnographic and Documentary Film or Documentary Fiction). You can read more about the two studios here.

Please note that you may submit applications for a maximum of two graduate programmes (or one application for the Law LLM) in any application cycle.

Choose your programme

Please read the Application Guidance before proceeding with your application.

Year of entry: 2024-2025

Got questions? Get in touch

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